GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — His official title with the Kent County Road Commission is driver, but on the highways and byways of Kent County, Andy Albertson is known as ‘the sheriff.’
“’Deer sheriff.’ Yes. I was coined that when I first started this gig,” Albertson said Wednesday. “Silly at the time. But the name stuck. I’m referred to that now as the sheriff amongst my peers here. “
Every day starts at about 6 a.m. with a list of roadkill: a raccoon here, a coyote there. By the end of the day, the back of Albertson’s county flatbed is mostly filled with dead deer.
“I get that list in the morning, and I take my truck and shoot up (US-)131, and I work from the north end of the county all the way to the south,” Albertson said.
Like his coworkers, Albertson has several jobs at the county garage, including driving a plow in the winter months, but most of his time is spent behind the wheel of the deer sheriff’s patrol vehicle. He started with the road commission in 2004. About a year into his career, he found he had a knack for spotting and loading roadkill. The day-in, day-out business of picking up dead animal carcasses from the side of a busy roadway took some getting used to.
“I got to a point where (I thought), this isn’t all bad,” Albertson said. “It’s a public service. That’s what I signed on for. That’s what we all signed on for. This is public service with a capital ‘P’ when you’re scooping animals off the road.”
Albertson’s a one-man crew.
Even with all the miles he drives, he’s never hit a deer on the job, though there was one close call.
“(The deer) ran right alongside. And I think he saw what I had in the back and shot back into the woods,” Albertson said.
After doing the job for more than a decade and a half, he says nothing grosses him out anymore.
“Summertime is the probably the roughest time to be in this line of work — that smell,” he said. “You get used to it. You tolerate it. “
Most days average between 10 and 15 dead deer, although he’s had days with as many as 38. A few years back, his boss began adding up his daily haul. Earlier this week, Albertson hit a major milestone when he picked up the 40,000th deer from the side of the road.
“It wasn’t the moon landing. I’m just jumping off the back of the work truck. But I’ve had a lot of fun with that,” Albertson said.
It’s not just deer. Over the years, he has picked up dogs, a bear and even a llama or two.
If you were wondering, this deer sheriff don’t hunt.
“To shoot something I’m going to have 15 of the following Monday, what’s the point?” Albertson said.
So with all of his experience, are there are any roads you’re more likely to ruin into a deer herd?
“I’m asked that daily,” Albertson said. “The deer are everywhere. If you’ve got a heavily travelled road, if you’re around cornfields, wooded areas., even houses bunched and close to the road… they’re gonna jump.”
It’s a dirty job but one Andy Albertson is proud of. As he surpasses the 40,000 mark, he’s looking for number 50,000. That’s when he says he may start thinking about parking the truck. Until then, there are more deer who’ll meet an unfortunate demise out there.
“You get that thumbs up from the homeowner, from the passerby, from the guy in the car,” Albertson said. “I mean, we get the other, non-thumbs up, if you know what I’m talking about. But I think that’s what keeps me going.”